Jenn, 37.

I’m Jenn and diagnosed with ASD. I’m 37 and was only diagnosed when I was 32. I felt so relieved as I thought there was something very wrong with me. I thought I was lazy for wanting to sleep too much, I thought that I needed to go to an anger management therapy, as I was always angry and frustrated. Then one day, I had a meltdown for the first time in front of my partner who happens to work in Psychology and that’s when we started exploring and reading about ASD. After some readings, I went and saw an expert in women with ASD and I was diagnosed. I struggled for all my life until I was diagnosed and was able to understand myself better and understand my frustrations and anger. Also, this allowed me to develop coping strategies and to understand the way that my body works and that it is OK to have different needs e.g. more sleep, sensory issues.

Being a black woman from another culture, gay and Aspie has never been easy. I have 2 degrees and am completing a masters but was only able to secure full time job in November 2017. I had a very difficult path with employment. I would always get through to interviews and find it hard to progress and I have been bullied at different workplaces in Australia. I took a high profile federal agency to court for discrimination at work. I was told that recruitment made a mistake by hiring me! This was because I asked for reasonable adjustment at work and was terminated. No need to tell you that I won my case. I’m a fighter, VERY resilient and I will fight for any injustice. In fact I’m so obsessed by justice that sometimes it gets me into trouble because I will fight with the same energy whether it’s a little injustice or a big one. My masters studies are in Justice!

I am proud of being an Aspie now and my favourite saying is “normal is overrated!” I think divergence is the way to go now. But it took me a while to come to terms with it and my family ignore it altogether. I get really frustrated with the anti-discrimination laws and policies in Australia because my experience shows me over and over that it is all talk and nothing substantial happens. I have a pretty supportive workplace now but even so promises aren’t kept and people don’t really understand or make adjustments for those of us with different needs.

At the moment I am saying I CAN to different things and trying to learn to be adventurous. I have spent all my life being anxious about the unknown but my partner has helped me realise I’m missing out and I CAN do new things and have adventures if I try and plan.

Lisbeth Salander in The Millennium trilogy is my favourite character – because of her love for Justice, her obsession with researching things on the Internet. I am like her. In my spare time I do a lot of reading and researching on the Internet.
For me, a perfect world would be one where ONLY people with a Beautiful Divergent Mind (a bit like The Divergent series) will rule the world! LOL. My obsession is cats in general but particularly my 3 babies- they are my life and love. My partner Pemma is my number 1 support – she’s awesome and very understanding and supportive. She’s always encouraging me.

I would like to share my story with parents to tell them not to give up and to fight for their rights, their children’s rights for justice and equality! One thing I learnt in life and some advice for parents and other adults – BE your own advocate! Do not wait for others to do things for you, to give things to you, you need to make things happen – so stand up and fight for your own needs and rights!

The I CAN Network creates a world that embraces Jenn’s strengths. We need your support to continue creating a society that empowers young people on the Autism Spectrum. Join us by donating to our next venture: holding one of our acclaimed camps in Queensland.

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